Virginia county governments are required to put bond issuance to a voter referendum in order to borrow money on behalf of the county. Bond issuance is usually used by governments to raise money for large capital expenditures, and those bonds are repaid to their purchasers at a later date with interest. Bond referendums in Fairfax County historically pass by a large margin, in large part because people think they are voting in favor of the agencies that will benefit (after all, who wants to vote against schools, parks, or transportation?). Many voters do not realize that bond issuance contributes to government debt and should be used sparingly.
Parks and Park Facilities Bonds
Citizens of Fairfax County will be asked through a bond referendum (PDF link) to authorize the Board of Supervisors to borrow up to 77 million dollars to fund parks and park facilities. Up to 12 million dollars of this amount can be directed to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), while the remainder would be allocated to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA). The FCPA would split their bond revenues roughly equally between land acquisition, ‘stewardship’, renovations, and park development (more information).
Many of the parks managed by these agencies are close to my heart. The Washington & Old Dominion Trail, a 45-mile bicycle trail I ride nearly weekly, is managed and maintained by the NVRPA. The un-paved Cross County Trail, another of my favorite bike trails, runs primarily through FCPA land. I want to see these trails and their surrounding park lands improved and protected, no doubt, but I fail to understand why we are unable to provide 77 million dollars out of the county’s immense $3,352,592,697 budget. The requested amount would add up to only 2.3 percent of the county budget, over the 2.5 percent (82 million dollars) already budgeted for parks and libraries.
Perhaps the public schools, recipients of a whopping 53.1 percent ($1.8 billion) of the county budget, could spare a few dollars. After all, even if the entire 77 million dollars were taken from the schools and given to the parks, the schools would still receive a solid 50.8 percent of our county dollars. Not a bad reward for miserable failure, eh?
I strongly support our parks, but our local park system—one of the most expansive and impressive systems in the United States—is hardly in dire need of a cash influx. Any money the parks need for land acquisition, maintenance, or development should be provided directly from the county’s immense $3.4 billion budget and limited park usage fees. I strongly endorse a NO vote on the Parks and Park Facilities Bonds Referendum.